P1 Column: Situational awareness, officer safety, and 'the explorer mentality'

Part Two: The exploring officer takes responsibility for the strategic choices of routes and objectives on his journey into the unknown

Editor’s Note: The below column from Fred Leland is the second part of a two-part series. Part one ran here on PoliceOne on Wednesday, June 27th and it is strongly recommended that you read part one before delving into the column below.

In part one of this two-part series, we examined the important ways in which recognizing patterns of behavior and applying the rule of opposites can be vital survival tools for law enforcement officers. If you haven’t yet read part one, I encourage you to click here before reading on in part two below.

Now that you’re caught up, you’ll recall that in part one I quoted Napoleon as saying, “The impressions which [a commander] receives successively or simultaneously in the course of a day should classify themselves in his mind in such a way as to occupy the place which they merit, because reason and judgment are the result of the comparison of various impressions taken into just consideration.”

Napoleon also famously said, “A general never knows anything with certainty, never sees his enemy clearly, and never knows positively where he is. When armies are face to face, the least accident in the ground, the smallest wood, may conceal part of the enemy army. The most experienced eye cannot be sure whether it sees the whole of the enemy’s army or only three-fourths. It is by the mind’s eye, by the integration of all reasoning, by a kind of inspiration that the general sees, knows, and judges.”

The Explorer Mentality
In order to effectively gather the appropriate information as it’s unfolding we must possess the explorer mentality and be able to recognize patterns of behavior and then recognize that which is outside that normal pattern. Then take the initiative so we maintain control.

Every call — every incident to which we respond — possesses novelty. Car stops, domestic violence calls, robberies, suspicious persons, etc. These individual types of incidents show similar patterns in many ways.

For example, on a car stop, the violator typically pulls over to the side of the road when signaled to do so. The officer, when ready, approaches the operator, a conversation ensues, paperwork is exchanged. A domestic violence call has its own normal patterns. Police arrive, separate involved parties, take statements, arrest the aggressor, and advise victim of abuse prevention rights.

We could go on like this for all the types of calls we handle as each type of incident on its own merits, does possess very similar patterns. Yet they always, and I mean always possess something different be it the location, the time of day, the person you are dealing with. Even if it’s the same person, location, time and day, the person you’re dealing who may now be in a different emotional state and his/her motives and intent may be very different and break that normal expected pattern, hence the need to always be open-minded, alert and aware, exploring for the signs and signals of positive or negative change in conditions.

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